Posts Tagged Royal Commission

Australian Catholics need to wake up / The Sydney Morning Herald

With a sexual abuse record among the worst in the world, and an exhaustive and fair investigation completed by a Royal Commission that produced a clear set of recommendations, the international church ought to be looking to Australia for a way forward. All Australians, and particularly the Catholic community, should do what they can to shame and pressure the Australian bishops. The first step is to arise from their slumber. (The Sydney Moening Herald)

“Australian Catholics are being conned. After all the disgrace of the Royal Commission evidence and its specific and telling recommendations, the response effectively proposed by the Australian Bishops is to call a Plenary Council of the church in Australia in 2020-21. Australia’s Catholics seem to be meekly agreeing to what is an unconscionable delay and a fudge. In short, the bishops have us where they want us: corralled and quietened.

“In one sense, convening such a forum could be seen as innovative and consultative. Realistically, it downplays the magnitude and urgency of the issues that need to be addressed. Whether the agenda ultimately addresses the main reform issues raised by the Royal Commission is a moot point. Such forums in the Australian church have a habit of being lead down paths that produce platitudinous outcomes and avoid the contentious. More significantly it is openly acknowledged that there is considerable doubt and dispute as to whether such a forum would have the authority to make decisions that address the real issues.

“The temper of Australian Catholics appears to have moved from outrage to exhausted resignation that change in our church is just too hard. And indeed, it is. Faced with a witheringly perceptive analysis of the problems that contributed to sexual abuse, the bishops give little indication, individually or collectively that they know how to respond. They seem caught between their own, not surprisingly, inadequate skills in managing and leading organisational change and the very real sense that they are beholden to Rome and incapable of acting authentically and in ways that recognise the stark reality of the Australian church’s predicament.”

By Terry Fewtrell, The Sydney Morning Herald — Read more …

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Australian bishop urges end to clericalism / National Catholic Reporter

“The sex abuse crisis was more than the evil acts of individuals. (Bishop Vincent Long) Van Nguyen said the culture of the church contributed to the crisis in Australia.” National Catholic Reporter

Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen of Parramatta, Australia, speaking to the National Council of Priests of Australia, urged an end to clericalism in the church and expressed hope that a newly revitalized Catholic clergy would emerge from the sex abuse crisis that has wracked the Catholic Church in Australia.

“He spoke Aug. 30 to the National Council of Priests in Australia, which reprinted his remarks in the December edition of The Swag, its quarterly magazine.

“Van Nguyen, 55, a Conventual Franciscan who became bishop of Parramatta last year, declared in a message to a Royal Commission investigating sex abuse in the Catholic Church that he himself had been abused by church members as an adult. He told the priests’ group that ‘we are in a big mess’ as priests ‘bear the brunt of public anger and distrust in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis. It is one of the hardest times to be a priest.’

“He suggested they look to the example of Pope Francis as a vision of priesthood based on a servant, not an authoritarian, model.”

By Peter Feuerherd, National Catholic Reporter — Read more …

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Catholic sexual abuse partly caused by secrecy and mandatory celibacy, report finds / The Guardian

“The patriarchal nature of Catholic institutions meant that abuse went unchallenged and, while a small number of nuns were abusers, the report found the risk of offending was much higher in institutions where priests and religious brothers had minimal contact with women. The report estimated about 7% of clergy had abused children between about 1950 and 2000.” (The Guardian)

Mandatory celibacy and a culture of secrecy created by popes and bishops are major factors in why such high rates of child abuse have occurred in the Catholic church, a comprehensive study has found.

“The report, which looked at the findings of 26 royal commissions and other inquiries from Australia, Ireland, the UK, Canada and the Netherlands since 1985, found that while the endangerment of children in institutions has been considerably lowered in Australia, children remained at risk in Catholic parishes and schools and Catholic residential institutions in other countries across the world, especially in the developing world where there are more than 9,000 Catholic-run orphanages, including 2,600 in India.

“The patriarchal nature of Catholic institutions meant that abuse went unchallenged and, while a small number of nuns were abusers, the report found the risk of offending was much higher in institutions where priests and religious brothers had minimal contact with women. The report estimated about 7% of clergy had abused children between about 1950 and 2000.”

By Melissa Davey, The Guardian — Read more …

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Seeking a path from Pell to a Plenary Council / Commonweal

“The hearings have laid bare the cultural factors that enabled the (clergy abuse) scandal to be so badly managed,” he (Francis Sullivan, head of the Truth, Justice, and Healing Council) told me. “They can be summarized as issues of power, privilege, and participation. Who controlled decision-making, who was involved in decision-making, and who benefited from the decisions taken. The lack of transparency and the entitlement attitudes that underpin clericalism were given a lot of ventilation.” (Commonweal)

Arriving in Sydney, Australia, this summer for a round of conferences sponsored by the Broken Bay Institute of the Australian Institute of Theological Education, I found a church confronting events likely to have a profound impact on its future: the Royal Commission’s completion of its work on an ‘institutional response to child sexual abuse’; the return of Cardinal George Pell from Rome to face charges on sexual abuse cases alleged to have taken place decades ago in the diocese of Ballarat; and the announcement of a Plenary Council for Australia set for 2020—the first since 1937.

“The three issues are interwoven. The Pell case frightens the institutional church for the ripple effects the trial might have on other investigations into clergy sexual abuse. It complicates the creative response of the Australian episcopate to the scandal: the creation of the Truth, Justice, and Healing Council launched shortly after the establishment of the Royal Commission and headed by Francis Sullivan, a lay Catholic who for fourteen years was chief executive of Catholic Health Australia. After the expected publication of the Royal Commission’s report at the end of this year, the Truth, Justice, and Healing Council will publish its own report. It will be interesting to see how the episcopate receives it. Created by the bishops, the council has nonetheless maintained an independent attitude; for example, it has refused the request of some bishops to cross-examine witnesses heard by the Royal Commission.

“Sullivan gave me his assessment of the impact of the Royal Commission hearings. ‘The hearings have laid bare the cultural factors that enabled the scandal to be so badly managed,’ he told me. ‘They can be summarized as issues of power, privilege, and participation. Who controlled decision-making, who was involved in decision-making, and who benefited from the decisions taken. The lack of transparency and the entitlement attitudes that underpin clericalism were given a lot of ventilation. This has opened public debate about the role of women, celibacy, seminary training, supervision of clerics, and the ethical use of church finances.’ The church, he added, has lost control of this public debate. ‘Its voice has been muted and compromised,’ he said. ‘Any semblance of a defensive tone is jumped on by critics and the majority of the leaders have been missing in action.'”

By Massimo Faggioli, Commonweal — Read more …

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Father Thomas Doyle tells royal commission Vatican failed sex abuse victims / Sydney Morning Herald

The Vatican has failed to support survivors of sexual abuse in the church for decades, with prominent Catholics demanding action at a royal commission.

“A whistleblower priest who was one of the first to report allegations of sexual abuse to the Vatican in the 1980s told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he was punished for speaking out.

“Father Thomas Doyle, an American canon lawyer, told the second day of the inquiry into Catholic Church authorities, secrecy, cover-ups and betrayal of victims were hallmarks of the institution’s response to abuse.

“‘One of the massive holes in the Roman Catholic Church’s approach to this issue today is a failure to completely comprehend the spiritual damage that is done to victims, to their families . . . and the community itself,’ he said.”

By Rachel Browne, Sydney Morning Herald — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Bishop Bede Heather ‘destroyed’ documents: Royal Commission / The Sydney Morning Herald

The former Catholic Bishop of Parramatta Bede Heather has told a royal commission he destroyed documents relating to potential legal action against a paedophile priest.

“Bishop Heather told the public inquiry he destroyed documents because he was traumatised by a police search of his office as part of an earlier investigation into sexual abuse by clergy.

“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard Bishop Heather advised his lawyers Makinson & D’Apice of his actions in a 1996 letter.

“‘Following the police raid on our offices, shortly afterwards I took the precaution of destroying all papers of mine which could have been to the disadvantage of persons with whom I deal,’ he wrote in the letter which was partly read out before the commission.”

By Rachel Browne, The Sydney Morning Herald — Click here to read the rest of this story.

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The Royal Commission has exposed a Catholic Church culture in desperate need of change / Newcastle Herald

During his evidence to the royal commission Bishop Bill Wright made the observation that he felt concentrating on events of 30 years ago was not a useful exercise, and it is more important to understand what is happening now with regard to child abuse and protection. The Commissioner’s response was to state that the community had asked for a royal commission into organisations and that this be done in the public eye.

“Understanding the history of abuse is vitally important to the health of the current community. Let me explain why.

“First, it is vital to bring to public knowledge the traumatic events that occurred across Catholic parishes and schools in the last 60 or so years …”

By Kathleen McPhillips, Commentary in the Newcastle Herald — Click here to read the rest of this column.

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